10 things to do in Gran Canaria for amazing vacations

things to do in gran canaria
By Joanna Dabrowska

By Joanna
(Contact Me)

Places to visit in Europe July 3, 2024 Spain Gran Canaria 2024 Places to visit in Europe

Gran Canaria is an island of contrasts. Technically Europe, but really Africa. In the south, beaches and desert dunes, in the north - cliffs. And in the middle, volcanic mountains, winding roads, and lush greenery. From cacti and banana trees to our familiar nasturtiums and poppies, which bloom in Gran Canaria in February.

How can you not be amazed?

Come, let's check out the best things to do in Gran Canaria to have amazing vacations which you'll remember for long!

Attractions in Gran Canaria

Before you read about Gran Canaria, check also the below Canary Islands' guides:

🌴 8 things to do in Tenerife beyond the beach

🌴 5 hikes in Anaga Mountains, Tenerife

🌴 Hiking Montaña Blanca, Teide National Park

🌴 Chinyero Volcano trail, Tenerife


Things to do in Gran Canaria


1. Hike

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Gran Canaria isn't just beaches and sunshine - it's a hiker's paradise! Crisscrossed with trails, you can explore volcanic peaks, lush forests, and dramatic ravines. Some trails are a leisurely stroll, others a challenging climb.

If you'd like to discover some of the most beautiful hikes in Gran Canaria, check our hiking guide.


2. Visit Pico de las Nieves

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The peak is considered the highest mountain in Gran Canaria - it reaches 1949 meters above sea level.

At the very top, there's a viewing platform offering a magnificent view of the Roque Nublo monolith, Roque Bentayga, and Tenerife with the Teide volcano (you can only see the neighboring island on sunny days). Looking south, you can admire the sea of clouds hanging between the volcanic peaks - something incredible!

Right next to it is a military base, with a characteristic ball-shaped radar visible from afar.

"Peak of Snow" The name Pico de las Nieves means "peak of snow." There are two theories regarding this name. The first one says that this place recorded the highest snowfall on the island. The second one refers to the pits built in this place to store snow. The first one was built in 1649 at the request of the Catholic Church. The stored snow was used in the past to alleviate diseases, combat temperatures during yellow fever and cholera epidemics. It was also used to cool drinks and water for the upper class.

A scenic road GC-130 leads to Pico de las Nieves. There is a small parking lot for a few cars at the top.

You simply must go there at least once!

If you prefer to visit Pico de las Nieves along with other mountain places on a guided tour, check out this option:


3. Wallow on the Dunes in Maspalomas

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One of the most popular places to visit in Gran Canaria. A magnificent and unique place on the scale of all the Canary Islands! The dunes cover over 400 hectares and stretch along the ocean for 6 kilometers. 

The Maspalomas Dunes is a large nature park, partially accessible to tourists. The gigantic space covered in golden sand looks incredible. The highest dunes reach up to 20 meters. 

You can observe the process of dunes shifting and forming. On a windy day, the sand particles create an amazing spectacle (although it's good to have a balaclava on your face then, because the sand gets everywhere). The whole thing looks very impressive.

A big downside for me is the heavily built-up area in the north of the dunes - hotels and apartments that spoil the natural landscape. It's worth going deeper into the dunes and admiring their beauty closer to the Atlantic Ocean.


4. Admire views from the Mirador del Balcón

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Gran Canaria offers many breathtaking viewpoints, but this one is my number one.

Mirador del Balcón offers a magnificent view of the cliffs dropping down to the Atlantic Ocean. The cliffs visible from this place are called the "Dragon's Tail" because their shape resembles the tail of a monster. On a cloudless day with good visibility, you can see the neighbouring island of Tenerife with the Teide volcano from here.

A characteristic element here is a glass balcony hanging over the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, which is located slightly lower than the road. The glass adds extra thrill to the experience! For me, a visit to this viewpoint is one of the best free things to do in Gran Canaria!

Mirador del Balcón is located on the GC-200 road in the Tamabada National Park in the western part of the island (location here).

To reach this point, you need to turn from the main GC-2 road onto GC-200. The GC-200 road leading from the viewpoint further up is a dead end.

To learn more about Gran Canaria scenic drives, check out our driving guide.


5. Visit Firgas

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Firgas is a charming little town in the northern Gran Canaria. It's definitely worth visiting while exploring the island. The town of Firgas is known for its natural springs and mineral water production.

In the heart of the old town, there's an interesting promenade called Paseo de Gran Canaria. Along the sides of the promenade, there are 22 coats of arms representing the regions of Gran Canaria and the island's coat of arms. Under each coat of arms, you can sit on a "chair" covered with beautiful tiles. A 30-meter water cascade runs through the middle of the street. This is related to the fact that Firgas is one of the most important sources of mineral water on the island.

A bit higher up, there are brick silhouettes of each Canary Island. Next to each one, there's information about the area, the highest point, and the number of inhabitants (data from 1996). Additionally, there's the historic church of St. Roch and the oldest still-functioning water mill in the Canary Islands.


6. Marvel at Poema del Mar

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Poema del Mar is a modern aquarium located in Las Palmas (the capital of Gran Canaria). Visit to this aquarium is one of the best things to do in Gran Canaria for families and marine enthusiasts.

It's a popular attraction where you'll learn about diverse marine life and ecosystems from around the world. The exhibitions are divided into 3 zones:

  • 🌊 The Jungle - a lush, rainforest-themed area with freshwater species like piranhas, alligators, and colorful fish.
  • 🌊 Reef - a vibrant coral reef environment with various tropical fish, sharks, and rays.
  • 🌊 Deep Sea - the most impressive zone. It features a large cylindrical tank with a 36-meter curved glass wall. You'll see there a variety of deep-sea creatures, including sharks, tuna, and jellyfish.
  • Poema del Mar is quite famous place in Gran Canaria. To avoid waiting in queue to the ticket office, you may get a skip-the-line ticket online.

  • 7. Visit the capital city of Gran Canaria

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    If you're going to visit Poema del Mar, it's worth to check out other places in the city.

    Las Palmas is the capital of Gran Canaria and all the Canary Islands.

    The most beautiful district is the historic Vegueta, which is definitely worth seeing. It's all about the atmosphere. Picturesque streets, museums, restaurants for every budget, boutiques in old tenement houses - Vegueta is simply beautiful!

    In the historic district you can visit:

    • The Canary Museum, which houses important archaeological and documentary materials related to pre-Hispanic cultures
    • Columbus House, with several exhibition halls, a library, and a specialized study center
    • The Hermitage of San Antonio Abad
    • The Cathedral of Santa Ana
    • The Atlantic Center of Modern Art (CAAM), one of the most avant-garde and interesting places in Canary Islands.

    Before leaving Vegueta, it's worth visiting the Guiniguada Theater or taking a walk through the market, which dates back to 1854.

    For a scenic walk, head to Las Canteras Beach. This is the heart of Las Palmas, a long stretch of golden sand perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and people-watching. There's a lively promenade with shops, cafes, and restaurants, and the water is usually calm thanks to a natural reef.

    If you're into shopping, go to Calle Triana. This pedestrian street is a shopper's paradise, with a mix of big-name brands and local boutiques. Not my thing, but it's worth mentioning.

    Las Palmas is a good place for people who don't like the heat - the sky is almost always slightly cloudy here.



    8. Learn about salt in the Salinas de Tenefé

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    Salinas de Tenefé in Pozo Izquierdo is one of the industrial plants on the island where salt is produced through the evaporation of water from brine.

    The brine comes from the Atlantic Ocean, and the evaporation ponds where it's collected are located right by the ocean shore. The first ponds were built here in the 18th century. The main purpose of the plant was to sell the produced salt to fishing boats that supplied the Canary Islands and the coasts of Africa.

    Salinas de Tenefé was originally called "Las Salinas de los Tres Molinos," meaning "The Three Windmills." It was with the help of windmills that water was pumped into the ponds. Currently, there is one historic windmill on the site of the salt pans. Next to the brine pools, there is a building that in the old days served as both a dwelling for the Salinero, the people managing the production, and a salt warehouse.

    Currently, there is also a small shop and a museum (the exhibition is only in Spanish). In the museum, we found a mention of our Wieliczka Salt Mine near the city of Kraków.

    Admission to the salt pans, as well as to the museum, is free. You can buy salt in a jar on site.


    9. Admire flowers and sunset in Puerto de Mogan

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    Puerto de Mogan is one of the most popular places in Gran Canaria. No wonder - the town is charming and well-cared for.

    Upon arrival, the flowers immediately catch your eye, serving as a unique decoration for Puerto de Mogan's old town. Bougainvillea climbing the characteristic whitewashed buildings in vibrant shades of pink, purple, red, and orange is an unforgettable sight. These flowers look stunning! It's no wonder that the "foot traffic" is a bit slower here – everyone who comes here takes out their camera or phone and snaps pictures until their memory card is full.

    The local marina is beautifully situated, and the waters are clear and azure. Schools of fish swim between the moored sailboats and along the shore. Yachts from all over the world dock here!

    Puerto de Mogan has a typical urban beach with brown sand, very popular among tourists. There's a promenade with restaurants, cafes, and shops stretches along it. It's worth noting that prices in restaurants are significantly higher than in the rest of the island.

    If you'd like to spice up your visit to Puerto de Mogan, you may be interested in a submarine tour. You'll admire the seabed and underwater nature from a modern vessel. I consider it one of the most unique things to do in Gran Canaria!


    10. Learn about bananas in El Mundo del Plátano

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    Museo del Platano is one of the newest attractions in Gran Canaria, but it's incredibly well-organized. The plantation – completely uncovered – is toured in small groups in English or Spanish.

    Charismatic guides lead the tours, and the admission price includes a tasting of the bananas grown here, as well as jams and liqueurs made from them (the strangest tasting turned out to be a sparkling banana wine similar to prosecco). There's also a well-stocked shop on site with banana souvenirs, not just food items. The area is so beautifully arranged that you won't want to leave.

    EL Mundo del Plátano is quickly gaining popularity among travelers so it's good to get tickets in advance.


    Tours of Gran Canaria

    Don't want to explore Gran Canaria on your own? Take a look at these guided tours with local guides, usually including hotel pickup in the price.

    If I were to choose for you, I'd go for these options:

    📌 A tour of Gran Canaria's most important attractions. Check the details.

    📌 A trip through the vineyards and most beautiful viewpoints in Gran Canaria. Check the details.

    📌 Guided trekking in the mountains of Gran Canaria. Check the details

    📌 HIT! A tour of Gran Canaria's iconic peaks with a sunset finale at the highest peak of the island - Pico de Las Nieves. Plus tasting. Check the details.


    Best places to stay

    Maspalomas

    gran canaria hikes


    We stayed in Maspalomas in the south of the island. It's one of the most popular places in Gran Canaria. It's located close to the famous Playa del Inglés beach resort.

    While the location was ideal for both exploring the island and enjoying the beach, we found it a bit too lively and crowded for our taste.

    But if you would like to stay close to the beach at a comfortable hotel, choose Riu Palace Oasis. This highly-rated hotel also features spa facilities and a swimming pool. Guests are delighted with peaceful location, spacious rooms and delicious food.


    San Agustín

    For a more tranquil escape, consider San Agustín. This peaceful resort boasts golden sand beaches like Playa de San Agustín and Playa de las Burras, and is conveniently located just a short distance from Maspalomas.

    For your stay choose Hotel San Agustin Beach Club. Guests appreciate the convenient location right next to the beach, comfortable rooms and super friendly staff.


    Tejeda

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    Tejeda, a mountain village perched 1,046 meters above sea level, is an adventurer's paradise in Gran Canaria. Offering a refreshing escape from the coastal heat, it serves as an ideal base for exploring the island's central region.

    The village is nestled within a Biosphere Reserve, renowned for its almond trees and striking volcanic scenery. Whether you're eager to hike rugged trails or embark on Gran Canaria scenic drives, Tejeda is the perfect starting point.

    Even if you prefer to stay close to the sea, visit this village - Tejeda is one of the most captivating places to visit in Gran Canaria.

    For your stay in Tejeda choose Parador Cruz de Tejeda. This beautiful hotel offers scenic mountain views. Besides the location, guests are happy with abundant meals, comfortable rooms and the possibility to use the spa area.


    Gran Canaria travel guide

    Reading a map while hiking in Teide National Park


    If you like to come prepared, a paper guide and/or a travel map will be indispensable. Especially hiking map is necessary in Gran Canaria as the trails aren't always well marked.

    Besides, a paper map is a valuable tool for any traveler:

    ✅ Unlike digital maps, it's always available, even without internet access or in remote locations.

    ✅ No batteries or electronics required, ensuring reliability and eliminating concerns about technical issues or running out of power.

    ✅ Avoid data usage and roaming charges when traveling abroad by relying on a paper map.

    To ensure you're ready for anything, check out this highly-rated Gran Canaria hiking map on Amazon. It's waterproof, durable, and easy to use:


    This DK Eye Witness easy-to-use travel list covers the island's highlights, ensuring you experience the very best it has to offer. Pocket-friendly format. It has good rating on Amazon:


    Best time to visit

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    Without further ado, I'll say it right away: Gran Canaria is a great place for a vacation. With or without kids, at any time of the year.

    When you're dealing with wind and snow in your place, in Gran Canaria you can sunbathe and swim in the pool.

    In the summer, it's the hottest of all the Canary Islands - the winds, especially in the south, are not strong, and the temperature reaches over 30 degrees Celsius. If you like it hot, interesting, and not too expensive, this is the place for you.

    If you prefer mild temperatures and lush vegetation, visit Gran Canaria in March. There will also be fewer tourists for sure.


    Weather in Gran Canaria

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     The weather in Gran Canaria is fickle and you shouldn't get too attached to it, especially in the mountainous part of the island. During our two week-long stays (one in February and one in April), the island served up temperatures from 6 to 28 degrees Celsius, scorching sun, icy downpours, fog, and for dessert, calima (sandstorms)!

    Usually, it was enough to drive a dozen kilometers for the weather to change completely. We quickly developed the habit of carrying clothes for all kinds of weather in the trunk, including long pants and winter jackets.

    In general, Gran Canaria is changeable, and that's what I find particularly fascinating about this island. It's small but full of contrasts. From golden sandy beaches and windswept barren land to a paradise-green interior, mountains, and a cliff-lined coast - and that's still a simplification.

    The island is full of natural nuances from different climate zone that are thousands of kilometers apart elsewhere in the world. But in Gran Canaria, they're just a few kilometers away.


    How to travel on the island?

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    Car

    The best way to explore is on your own with a rental car. I recommend Rental Cars, which I rate the best out of all the rental companies I've dealt with so far. Everything was smooth, pleasant, fast, and affordable. The cars were in very good condition.

    The roads in Gran Canaria are well marked, but you have to take into account that they can be winding and narrow in places, especially in the center of the island. GPS navigation comes in handy.


    Buses

    Gran Canaria has a well-developed bus network - it's the primary mode of public transport on the island (there are no trains).

    Popular routes connect major hubs like Las Palmas, the airport, San Agustín, Playa del Inglés, Maspalomas, Puerto Rico, and Puerto de Mogán. Regular buses also serve all major towns with over 5,000 residents.

    However, service to the mountainous areas in the sparsely populated west is limited.

    Global is the sole bus operator, handling both intercity and Las Palmas city routes. Note that the city bus system has a separate website and ticketing.

    For intercity schedules and details, visit the official website: https://guaguasglobal.com/lineas-horarios/.

    For information on Las Palmas' public bus network, routes, schedules, and ticketing, visit their website: https://www.guaguas.com/.


    A few words about the roads

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    Gran Canaria may be small - 47 kilometers wide and 55 long - but the island's terrain makes traveling around it take ages.

    About 2/3 of the perimeter is encircled by a highway, which - attention! - in some places has five (!) lanes in each direction. It connects, among others, the capital Las Palmas with the airport and the resorts in the south. You can zip along it, but if you want to venture into the interior of Gran Canaria, which - let's be honest - is the best part, the speed drops to 40 kilometers per hour. Max.

    It's not that the roads in Gran Canaria are of poor quality. Quite the opposite. Most of them have a surface as smooth as a kitchen counter, and the roadsides sparkle with reflectors like a Christmas tree in the main square. But what's the use when the roads in the interior of Gran Canaria consist of climbs and turns, usually clinging to cliffs?

    As if they were designed by someone who made it a point of honor to faithfully replicate the tangle of the small intestine. It's not so bad if the road has two lanes, but it's not uncommon to find roads wide enough for only 1.5 - 1 car. These are usually the ones without numbers, clever shortcuts leading through villages lost in the mountains.


    Other beautiful places in Europe

    european lakes


    Europe boasts a wealth of natural beauty, from dramatic mountains to serene lakes, stunning coastlines, and ancient forests. With so many breathtaking options, choosing your ideal destination can be a challenge.

    For inspiration and guidance in planning your European adventure, let's explore some of the most beautiful places this diverse continent has to offer:

    ✅ 14 spa towns in Europe to visit if you need relax and rejuvenation

    ✅ 13 most beautiful mountain resorts in Europe

    ✅ 20 best hikes in Europe

    ✅ 19 European natural wonders

    ✅ Adventure honeymoon - 16 best places in Europe

    ✅ 9 most beautiful hikes in the Balkans

    ✅ 17 most beautiful lakes in Europe

    ✅ Slovenia - your ultimate travel guide




    I wish you a wonderful time exploring all the amazing things to do in Gran Canaria! 🧡

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